VOTE: Do retailers have a future, or will online shopping take over?

Little London Walk offers many individual shops to tempt the shoppers.  Photo by Louise Adams C130005-2 Chi Little London
Little London Walk offers many individual shops to tempt the shoppers. Photo by Louise Adams C130005-2 Chi Little London

TRADERS of Little London Walk will not be moved in an act of defiance against the landlord who wants to scrap the site.

The company which owns the 19-unit precinct had plans to demolish the site and replace it with a single retail unit.

But four proprietors of the independent shops left in the building, who have leases until 2020, have insisted they intend to stay.

However, store numbers in Little London Walk will be dwindling, as three other shops will be moving out within the next few months.

Mike Repp, a director at camera shop Whitby’s, had plenty to say about plans to turn the precinct into a single unit.

“He envisaged he would attract a London-kind of customer. A sort of mini Mayfair,” he said of Johnny de Lisle, a representative for owners PMB Holdings.

“He had no understanding of the character of Chichester so over the years they lost traders. He thinks the way forward is to have the site as a single unit.

“For 29 years we have traded here, and we will be here for the next seven years until the lease expires.

“People travel from a long way to come to Chichester because it is a lovely place to shop – because of the number of independent shops.”

He said the firm had not fully grasped the city’s appeal.

“They are a London-based company and this is their first exercise in retail; they are more into big office blocks.”

Scrapping the precinct, which became Sadlers Walk 30 years ago when David Sadler inherited the garden centre from a relative and filled the centre with sole traders, ‘would be detrimental to the city’, added Mr Repp.

‘I’m totally protected’

Lin Stearn, who owns the shoe shop Zig Zag, and has a lease there until 2020, reassured customers that she wasn’t moving.

“My shop Zig Zag has been in Little London Walk, formerly Sadlers Walk, for the past 22 years. I am totally protected under the terms of my lease until 2020 and intent to continue trading as usual in Little London Walk.

“Zig Zag will be staying for the long term.”

Jenne Langford is a co-owner of health shop Manuka at the back of the precinct, and although it has a six-month lease left on the unit, it is seeking a new home in Chichester.

“Absolutely we will stay in Chichester. I think we have enough of a following now that we can stand to move,” she said.

“As soon as we find somewhere, we will make a big splash about it.”

Jean Ainger, who has owned Cake Fayre for 27 years, has a lease in the walk until 2020 and pledged to remain in the precinct.

She said: “The customers are not happy; we’ve already had lots of opinions expressed. We have all been here for 20 or so years. We do not intend to go, we will fight. We are all here to stay.”

Silver jewellery shop Tuptim has traded from the precinct for 21 years, but will be making a move to South Street, near Argos, over the next month.

‘We have offered to pay costs’

Although seven units are filled, 11 are empty. And that number is set to rise to 15, when the three shops move out over the next few months.

Mr de Lisle, said of the traders: “Clearly they have a legal option to stay until 2019/2020 and no one is forcing them to do anything but to discuss options, one of which would be to vacate should they wish to do so. And we have offered to pay various costs such as moving costs, so that their business can thrive in another location.”

Traders understand there are no plans to refill the empty units in the future.

What do you think?

We want your views. Have your say in the voting panel on the right, and leave your comments below.